Ariadne is in trouble, at seventeen, her father's dying, she has a kingdom in her hands and no prospective husbands. What's a girl to do? This was an exercise in college, I was required to pu...
What you should know about the tikbalang and the balete tree:
The tikbalang is a mythical creature in Filipino folklore they're structured oppositely from centaurs, because they have horses for heads and human bodies (they're two legged, some say they have human arms, some say they have claws), and they smell awful with glowing amber eyes. They are languorous, tobacco-smoking man-horses that reside deep in Philippine forests and reward pursuers who could wrestle three hairs from its mane with three wishes. They like to confuse travelers' paths and are omnivorous (most are evil by nature but some are non-evil).
For the purpose of my getting a decent grade, not all of the elements of the tikbalang were fit in the story.
A Balete is a large tree that starts out as a vine clinging on to other trees. Traditionally, it is known as a hideout for bad spirits. It's not endemic since I found a place that says 'we hold the biggest Balete in Asia' but I don't know the scientific name.
Okay that's that beyond that you could enjoy this story on your own already.
Beauty, Honor and Glory
By iCe Dreams
Arcadia was a small kingdom in the middle of Draconia and Khara. Arcadia was not known for its wealth like Khara or for its magic like Draconia. In fact, it was the smallest of the three nations. The only things they could boast of, was the state of peace their nation was constantly in, their tranquil landscapes and, most of all, their endearing princess, Ariadne.
Princess Ariadne was not a paragon of beauty, nor was she talented. She could not play the harpsichord nor sing the high notes of a nightingale, yet her wit was razor-sharp. Now our princess, as most princesses of her age in those times, was faced with the dilemma of finding a suitable husband, for a princess without a husband is like an outstretched hand that cannot possibly touch the people.
The burden was made heavier by the fact that her father was near his death and that she needed to choose her husband soon or else she would be forced to hand down her throne or worse, the country might fall into civil war.
Had it only been her throne at stake, Ariadne would have abdicated, but she could not stand the thought of war in her small country for she knew the effects would be devastating. However, most princes, being pompous, could not stand ladies of the court who could think for themselves and actually had spines on their backs. This, coupled with her lack of loveliness and the fact that her country was diminutive, left her with no suitors.
So, in a valiant effort to keep her country from being torn apart, Princess Ariadne called upon her advisor, a tikbalang named Barakat, who lived in a balete tree just outside her window. Thus began the end of Arcadia.
Ariadne bit her lip in conviction as she sat down before Barakat, mindful that she should always keep her face smooth and free of the inner turmoil she was feeling at the moment. "I am sure you have heard of my father's... appeal for my marriage?"
It was hard to gauge the reaction that Barakat gave towards her choice of words... but then, it was always hard to determine the creature's attitude for he lacked the facial capabilities of a human. "I will be frank, I will do anything to keep this land together."
"Then get out and catch a man, my lady," Barakat said his 'hands' tapping the small of his chin. "A lady with your dowry should be able to get a decent husband somewhere."
Not knowing whether glaring at the royal adviser was a gesture appropriate for a princess, Ariadne settled for a slight frown. "I am talking about someone who'll still grant me the right to rule, Barakat, not some gentleman off the street who will probably cause me more scandal than I can make in a day. I need a way to find a prince who has land large enough not to bother with my own. Don't bother me with any other schemes, I know my problem, I simply do not look the part of a princess."
The tikbalang snorted, he was not about to counter the princess on something that he fully agreed with. She was homely, that was that, and princes had all the beautiful women fawning over them. Why settle for Ariadne whose assets were her chastity and her small kingdom? Yet, he found himself promising to her, "I will see what I can do my lady."
"Thank you." Ariadne smiled, and her face lit up. It was one of those few moments you can truly say she came close to being pretty. "I will wait for your answer tomorrow, Barakat. Please make haste."
The tikbalang, thinking that the only possible solution to the princess's quandary lay with magic, immediately went to the college professor who was living in the castle and dabbled in the arcane arts. He slapped his tail in impatience as he pounded his fist on the oak doors of the library where Laaservic was usually found.
The doors finally opened with a blue glow which told Barakat that magic had been used. He sent an angry growl towards Laaservic, who was sitting around a pile of books. "You should apply your magic in something more useful -- say -- cleaning up this room." Barakat said sarcastically casting a critical eye on the messy state of the room.
"Please leave if you don't have anything productive to say," Laaservic said, slowly putting down the book he was reading. "Unless you've come here for a reason?"
"Other than to pester you for your stupidity?" There was a light blue glow around the room that indicated the beginnings of a spell, but Barakat ignored it. "Unfortunately, no. Our princess wants help in finding a husband."
"I find nothing profitable in helping you to help her find one." Laaservic frowned, but it was obvious Barakat had his attention, for the spell was left unfinished although the air was thick with it. "Princess Ariadne will never find a husband. Her lack of desire to be the clichÃ© sort of lady is a big detriment."
The tikbalang snorted. "She thinks the problem lies with her beauty -- or lack of thereof."
Laaservic laughed. "That too."
"Make something that will keep her beautiful. If only for a week," the words came out as a command. "It will keep her happy."
"Three months - no - three days into the future it will get her a divorce," Laaservic noted. "What are you up to Barakat? You have kept an eye on the Arcadian throne for decades, Ariadne's lack of suitors is just a step towards your goal."
"I would rather have Arcadia whole than divided. Anyone taking over Ariadne would cause civil war." The tikbalang shook his head. "Is it not obvious that the people love her?"
"Is it not obvious that you cannot have Arcadia?" Laaservic laughed and waved his hand, the blue shimmer in the air disappeared. "A beauty potion? Then what? You will have her killed and act as the grieving counselor? You bloody bastard."
"I never claimed holiness. This is just in the hopes that the people involved will think I am completely behind her." The tikbalang snorted and his ears twitched, a clear sign of his growing irritation at the trend of the conversation. "Will you or will you not help me?"
Laaservic crooked his hand in the air and a bottle flew towards his hand. The tikbalang quickly tried to get a hold of the bottle but Laaservic pulled it out of his reach. "I still have a class of lords to teach and you are keeping my time here Barakat. Behave."
Ignoring the chastisement, Barakat reached for the potion. "Drink it only once. Magic is a dangerous toy especially when dealing with potions such as this one. It may kill you a second time around," said Laaservic.
"I will remember to tell her that," Barakat said, tossing the small bottle in the air and catching it again.
"I will enjoy watching this." Laaservic muttered, as he watched Barakat disappear through the hallways.
Ariadne stormed towards the tikbalang as she took one of the rose colored silks that was strung on the long banister. "What are you doing Barakat? If you recall my father is gravelly ill and you're hanging--" She looked distastefully at the cloth that had tripped her going down the stairs and nearly killed her, "--CLOTH."
"Your debut in society is long overdue don't you think? I sent out the invitations as soon as you told me about your plans." He smiled at her, although the effect was a little disconcerting on his horse's face. It had been weeks since Ariadne had asked for his help and by now the invitations had been properly delivered and accepted. "You are already seventeen. Most ladies are presented at sixteen."
He took the silk from her hand and gave it to one of the servants. "I thought you wanted to find a husband."
"I thought were helping me to look for one. This is not a Cinderella story!" Ariadne shouted in frustration as she waved her hand at the immense garden. "I can not be presented to half of the known world and expect some eligible young prince to ask for my hand in marriage. It has to be some other way."
"You think of facial value too seriously, my lady." The tikbalang shrugged as he took out the vial he had acquired weeks ago. He had not informed her sooner since he knew that she would have more time to back out of the plan that way. "This will fix your little insecurity. It is a little magic."
Ariadne looked at the vial thoughtfully. "A magic potion Barakat? I thought that one as cynical as you has stopped believing in magic. Do not jest with me. What will this accomplish?"
Rather than try to explain a long process of something that he himself did not know about, the tikbalang promptly opened the vial and drank some of the liquid to demonstrate the magic. There was a burst of light and Ariadne shielded her eyes for a second. She was rendered speechless by the transformation of Barakat from monster to man.
"This can not be real," she whispered to herself. And to try to convince herself of the reality of the situation, she reached out and brushed his face. Where normally there was hair, there was the smooth pale skin instead. He had promptly transformed into one of the most handsome men Ariadne has ever seen in her lifetime.
"Now do you believe in my abilities to solve your problems, princess?" Barakat let out a sardonic grin that almost looked out of place in his face. The expression marred it, completely destroying the temporary splendor the spell had created. "Will you agree to a debut tonight?"
Ariadne opened and closed her mouth twice. Finally realizing that her voice had given up in her astonishment, she nodded.
"It is settled then." There was a small pause before Barakat titlted his head thoughtfully. "We have to find a new name for you. We cannot just say it is Princess Ariadne's debut. No eligible bachelor would come for you with the purpose of marriage. The name is familiar in the noble houses. Besides, 'purity and chastity' do not seem fit for a princess who will set out to entrap a husband."
Ariadne found herself agreeing towards with him. "A mysterious name. Something uniquely Arcadian and yet uncommon, something that would draw them by the hundreds to Arcadia..." she mused.
"Tifarah." There was no hesitation in the choice.
"Beauty, honor and glory," ss Ariadne quoted the meaning, she shook her head at its irony. "A fitting name."
Barakat inclined his head and bowed royally to Ariadne saying, "To my lady Tifarah. May you find a husband tonight."
"Now I know why I never debuted in society," Ariadne grumbled as she fidgeted to keep the smile on her face. It was almost plastered there by the thought of impressing some prince. She was presented as the "younger sister" of Princess
Ariadne and was accompanied by her "twin brother" Barakat, who at the moment, did look a lot like her. The similarity of their appearance was attributed to the potion's ability for it had limits to its magic. It did not work with the materials already there. Rather, the tonic blanked the face out and sculpted it anew. She had to admire the magic for it had even erased the tobacco smell she had learned to associate with the tikbalang.
The sudden appearance of a 'sister and a brother' had not been explained, and though Ariadne had worried about it, the mystery had been enough to make the princes flock to the castle to see this supposed princess. Barakat placed a hand on Ariadne's shoulder to remind her eyes not to droop as the hundred and twelfth prince was presented to her. Ariadne almost jumped for joy when the last name was announced and the floor was given to dancing.
She went out to stretch her legs in the garden where she promptly bumped into someone and fell into one of the large fountain. Spluttering, Ariadne flipped her hair and glared at the offender who promptly apologized. "Another reason to avoid posh parties," Ariadne grumbled as she tried to locate her shoe which was lost in the water. "Posh guests tend to be rude."
"I already apologized," the man countered, a little irked by the fact that she was still angry.
"The least you can do is find my shoe --" Giving up, Ariadne took the other shoe off her foot and waded out of the fountain. "What a disaster. I can't go in now."
"Personally I'd rather keep out of this whole mess," the man grumbled as he offered her a helping hand, which she refused. "Events like this blatantly show the clamor of women to get husbands. It's sickening."
"On the contrary sir, this is the other way around." Ariadne raised a perfectly sculpted eyebrow. "Tell me then, why are you here?"
"I would rather go to balls like this than have my father and mother match me up to all the women she could find in court." He shook his head. "I dread the moment that they come up with their final list of wives."
"And I pity the unfortunate lady who is randomly picked, sir." Ariadne took out the pins that held her hair letting it drop soggily on her back. "To you, she may be a name on a list, to her you might be the world."
"To her I am a means to sustain a livelihood which is probably too extravagant for her own good," The man pointed out, then smiled. "Where are my manners? I see no one to introduce us, so I am sorry if I must introduce myself to you... my name is Carson, I am from Fellem."
"Fellem?" Ariadne repeated in awe, momentarily forgetting the cut on her pride. It was one of the largest kingdoms in the known world. "I am taken back sir. I did not know you come from such a far off place, and to visit Tifarah?"
"To get away," he corrected her then smiled at her state of wonder. "I am to turn twenty in a fortnight, my father has already issued an ultimatum for marriage."
"Ahh..." Ariadne mused, "I know the situation. My father is close to dying and I believe marriage is the only way to keep my country whole, yet I don't think any man would offer for my hand for I am a poor bargain."
"Sometimes it is not the bargain that should be looked at." Carson nodded. "May I know your name?"
Ariadne shook her head. "No sir, I have told you something which I should not have. My father's death is close and I fear if people knew of it, it would bring chaos."
"Then let me offer for your hand. I do not wish to be tied down, and I believe you do not want to be married either." Carson shrugged.
"A marriage in name alone?" Ariadne pondered over the words then nodded, "Yes, it would solve our problems." She curtsied in her wet clothes and smiled.
"Your name then?" Carson smiled. "Will you give it to me now?"
"Ariadne." Then she stood up to leave. "Come tomorrow."
"I don't understand you Carson," His long time friend, Rand commented as they rounded the last corner to get into their carriage. "You offered to marry Ariadne? Princess Ariadne of Arcadia? It's not only idiotic it's -- oh I don't know."
Carson, sensing that his friend was ready to throttle him stopped walking, "Look, Rand. I know of Ariadne's reputation --"
"Then why in god's name did you ask to marry her?" Rand cut in turning around to get a good look at his friend. "I just left you for an hour to see if Tifarah was still being presented and you turn around and offer to marry her sister? Ariadne is not beautiful and she's too much trouble to handle."
"The reason I haven't chosen anyone to marry yet is because every woman that's thrown at me can't even put a sentence together, much more help run Fellem." Carson smiled a little. "I asked Ariadne because she's intelligent and because I can have a decent conversation with her."
Snorting, Rand started walking again. Determined to show Carson the error of his ways he said, "She accepted because she knows you're the prince of Fellem."
"She accepted because I was her last hope." Carson shook his head, following his friend closely and stopped at the front of their carriage, which carried the royal seal of Fellem. "It was an act born out of desperation. I should know for my offer was just as desperate as hers was. I do not want to be locked in a marriage with a woman whom I can not stand to be with in the first place and all the women that I have met fall into that category.
Besides, I never told her that I was a prince, most of the people know me by my first name, not by /Carson/, only you call me that. She probably thinks I'm one of the lesser lords."
Opening the door of the carriage, Rand shook his head, "So you asked for her hand because you can talk to her? It's a poor reason when you haven't even met the woman we initially came here for! They say Tifarah is a beauty."
"And she probably has half the brain of Ariadne." Carson snorted as he entered the carriage.
Rand followed afterwards and he knocked on the ceiling to signal the driver that they were ready to leave. "Fine, when will you tell her that you're a prince?"
"When she confirms that she will marry me."
"Why did I change back this morning? You promised a week of this beauty!" Ariadne cursed as she looked at herself in the mirror, the tikbalang behind her. "Give me the potion, Barakat, or the kingdom will fall in ruins, he would never agree to marry one who looks as bad as me!"
"He agreed to marry you by the fountain!" Barakat snorted. "While you were soaking wet! I can not give you the potion anymore. It was probably less effective because we both drank it."
A chambermaid knocked on the door to announce, "It is Lord Carson, my lady. He is here."
"Give it to me." Ariadne snatched the bottle and drank down the contents, flipping the bottle aside. "I will be down shortly."
But no change came over her, and the next few hours found Ariadne dead in her chamber, with the change half completed, half of her face changed to Tifara's and the other half remaining Ariadne.
Moral: One should not depend on beauty to get husbands. Tikbalangs look for ways to betray you and College Professors find enjoyment in watching things unfold and go awry.
A/N: When the Brother's of Grimm compiled fairytales back then, at the end of their stories were short rhymes with the 'moral' of the story (after making the fairy tale children consumable that is), the Moral part of this was an attempt to parody that.
This is rather short because I mostly attempted to make it read and feel like a fairy tale. I loved reading them when I was a child and I still love reading them now. Actually it's more because my teacher limited it to five pages, and I couldn't type in more... Character development would have been better had there been more room to write.
Most of the names were Old English, with the exception of the Tikbalang. His was a Filipino name, a very old Filipino name more from the indigenous people in the Philippines: Barakat comes from the Maranao (from the lake) tribe and it means 'miracle worker'. I always put premium on the names, and that's why the names where handpicked for their meaning especially since there was so little room for character development.
I'm very fond of this story because it's the first ever fantasy I completed (and posted on line... well I've completed some others but then those were when I was ten so I doubt that anyone would find it palatable)
Why that ending... hmmm... I find that if I placed a happily ever after kind of thing here it wouldn't work. I mean she gets her guy after drinking a magic potion? It was a bit of an escapist thing to do to kill her (and, shorter since I needed to finish it within one week, and had to be under five pages... constraints...), but it was the only way to solve the dilemma without making it too sappy.
I hope you enjoyed.